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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
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Instructor Matt Armbrester, right, teaches Frances Nungester Elementary School students where milk comes from with Jane the cow’s help. Armbrester travels with the Southwest Dairy Museum Mobile Dairy Classroom.
Daily photos by Gary Lloyd
Instructor Matt Armbrester, right, teaches Frances Nungester Elementary School students where milk comes from with Jane the cow’s help. Armbrester travels with the Southwest Dairy Museum Mobile Dairy Classroom.

Newspaper In Education: Recommended reading
Dairy to be different
Traveling classroom teaches students about the importance of milk and where it comes from (with help from Jane the cow)

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

Jane the cow went to school for the first time last week and made an A-plus impression with local elementary students.

That’s what dairy farmers in Alabama and across the country want her and her keeper to do: make an impression on children and help them remember they need three to four servings of dairy products a day to get enough calcium for strong bones and teeth.

Matt Armbrester of Talladega loads a dairy cow into a trailer and drives her to one or two schools a day. He switches cows regularly so they can all get an education, and he said Jane was patient for her first week.

Frances Nungester third-graders Natasha Carter, Jamari Sales and Skyler Agner watch as Jane the cow is milked.
Frances Nungester third-graders Natasha Carter, Jamari Sales and Skyler Agner watch as Jane the cow is milked.
He hooked the 900-pound, black-and-white Holstein cow up to automatic milking equipment so the children could see how a dairy cow is milked. They watched the white milk splash into a clear container hanging from the trailer.

Armbrester, Jane and a trailer labeled with the words “Milk — a part of everything that’s good” visited St. Ann’s, Eastwood, Chestnut Grove and Frances Nungester schools in Decatur.

“It would take me about 30 minutes to milk her by hand the way my grandparents did it,” he said, so he showed students how to milk a cow with automatic equipment instead.

Meanwhile, Armbrester is giving Jane a feed mixture and the children some facts about cows and dairy products, and they’re listening intently. Along with milk, cows help us make ice cream, yogurt, butter, cottage cheese, cubes and slices of cheese and pudding, he told the children.

“She eats about 100 pounds of feed a day and drinks a bathtub full of water,” he said, “but she has a really big job and produces more than 9 gallons of milk a day.

“I know you all like to make A’s, and if cows don’t make A’s on their milk when it’s inspected at several different points, nobody gets paid and nobody gets to drink it.”

Armbrester explained that a refrigerated truck comes to the dairy farm and takes the tanks of milk to places like Barber’s Milk, where it is “cooked” to pasteurize it “and make it safe for everybody to drink.”

At Nungester Elementary, second-grader Trenton Cater said he was most impressed to find out that “TV screens are made of milk.”

First-grader Lydia Quarles said the part she liked best “was when he was milking the cow,” and her classmate Caleb Goode liked “seeing the milk go in the jug.”

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Mobile Dairy Classroom instructor Matt Armbrester teaches Frances Nungester Elementary students where milk comes from.
Several students in line with Dollean Acklin, a substitute teacher, said they want to be farmers when they grow up.

Stephanie Weathers, a mom who saw the program at another school, said her third-grader wanted to raise a cow after he saw Jane.

“I told him I didn’t think our neighborhood would allow it,” she said.

Parent Emily Payton said many city children have never seen a cow and learned a lot from this visit.

“I used to teach at Danville, and those kids have seen cows, but many students at Eastwood Elementary haven’t,” she said.

Eastwood Principal Margaret Greer got a chance to try her hand at milking afterward, Payton said. Armbrester and his cows see about 100,000 students a year during these free programs and give their teachers classroom activity books. He said Southwest Dairy Farmers, based in Sulphur Springs, Texas, spearheaded the mobile classroom project. In Texas they have seven similar trailers plus a dairy museum children can visit.

In Alabama, Auburn University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine assists with cows, feed and hay.

“And every time a dairy farmer in Alabama sells a load of milk, it helps bring this program to schools,” he said.

Did you know?

If you feed a cow a Hershey bar, do you get chocolate milk?
No, you have to mix white milk with chocolate syrup.

How many stomachs does a cow have?
Four, used to break their food down in stages.

How many glasses of milk does a cow produce in her lifetime?
Nearly 200,000.

What does calcium go into besides milk?
Toothpaste, TV screens, steel and Scotch tape.

— Milk, cow and calcium info
shared with local students

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